Basque militant ETA chief arrested after 17 years
A longtime chief of the Basque militant separatist group ETA was arrested Thursday in a French Alps town after being on the run for 17 years, Spanish authorities said, proudly announcing the capture of a man accused of crimes against humanity.
Jos Antonio Urruticoetxea Bengoetxea, known by the alias Josu Ternera, has been the most wanted ETA member since 2002. Interpol, the global police body, had issued a red alert against him. Spanish authorities also accuse him of multiple killings and belonging to a terrorist organization.
ETA, whose initials stand for “Basque Homeland and Freedom” in the Basque language, killed more than 850 people during its decades-long violent campaign to create an independent state in northern Spain and southern France. The militant group gave up its arms in 2017 and disbanded last year after being weakened by a sustained police effort to dismantle its operations and arrest its leaders.
Spain’s Interior Ministry said Ternera’s arrest took place early Thursday in Sallanches, a town of 16,000 in the French Alps, with both French intelligence services and Spanish Civil Guard agents taking part. Spanish authorities said Ternera, 69, had been living near Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, a French winter sports haven close to the borders of France, Switzerland and Italy.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said Ternera was arrested by France’s domestic intelligence service DGSI, based on a 2017 French conviction in absentia for involvement in a terrorist group. That verdict carried a sentence of eight years in prison and barred him from French territory.